Following a stellar opening set by doomy Colorado outfit Khemmis, Sweden’s Opeth brought a set drenched in compelling, moody visuals to accompany their unique take on ‘70s-esque prog and hard rock. Delivering an seventy-minute set that ebbed and flowed from fleeting acoustic passages to lengthy epics showcasing the quintet’s depth (particularly set closer “Deliverance”), lead singer Mikael Akerfeldt provided dramatic context against a backdrop of burning churches and otherworldly creatures. Opeth’s current sound defies easy explanation; imagine King Crimson as a band from the early ‘80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, with touring drummer Sami Karppinen asserting himself as a solid anchor for the band’s often unexpected arrangements.
Atlanta’s Mastodon, currently basking in the success of 2021’s Hushed and Grim, brought a crushing set of tunes that highlighted just how far they’ve come in recent years. The new album’s theme of death and reflection fit nicely against a mish-mash of visuals that drenched the band in dark light; singer/guitarist Brent Hinds cut an imposing figure, and new tunes “Pushing the Tides” and “Teardrinker” were even darker and heavier live than on record. Mastodon’s lean toward prog-metal in recent years has expanded their sound in all the right ways, and while no stranger to Grammy nominations, their near flawless set at the Riv showcased a band at the peak of its powers.